6 PAYSON HILL ROAD
RINDGE, NH 03461
First Congregational Church
Way Back When
by Margaret Morabito, Church Historian
Early Physical Church and First Meeting House 1750-1766
United Church of Christ
To see the big picture, we have to go back to 1750, when the township charter had been sold by Captain John Mason to new owners. On February 13, 1750 (some say 1749), the forty-three new owners, known as the Masonian Proprietors, met and approved the construction of the first building to house the church. It was supposed to be built within four years. Twenty acres were set aside in the center of town for the “meeting- house place”. The acreage included land for the meeting house, the common, a cemetery, and surrounding land in Rindge center.
While the intention was to build the church soon after approval, in actuality, the building of the church was slow to happen. In hindsight, this may have been accidentally beneficial since, during the 1750s, the war for the conquest of Canada (French and Indian War) began. The Indians, who were on the French side, caused problems in Monadnock No. 1, as they spread terror and alarm. In September of 1754, the proprietors agreed that it would be hazardous to build a meeting house at that time. By 1758, things had settled down and permanent residents started to move into the township.
Soon thereafter, we see that meetings for preaching were being held in the homes of some of the township’s proprietors. In 1759, preaching was done in the home of Captain Abel Platts, which was located in the area slightly north of Pool Pond. In 1760, the house of Samuel Hodgskins was designated as the place for preaching. The Hodgskins’ house was located within about a mile or so of the Common heading towards Jaffrey, known later in time as being the property of Deacon Jeremiah Norcross.
By 1761, plans were moving ahead for building our first meeting house. The dimensions of the church were voted on and approved: the length was to be 50 feet and the breadth 40 feet. By 1762, a few acres were cleared for the place of the first meeting house, and one-and-a-half acres within the 20 acres of the Common had already been reserved for a cemetery. By 1764, the meeting house was partly finished and meetings were probably held there during the summer. Finally, in 1765, the meeting house was completed, with church meetings being held with our settled pastor, Reverend Dean. His house was near the southern border of the original Common (now on Goddard Road close to Main Street). By 1766, the town and the proprietors were using the new meeting house building for their meetings, too. At that time, the proprietors voted to allow the building of horse stables near the meeting house and on the Common.
Who built the first meeting house? While Captain Jacob Gould of Lunenburg is mentioned in 1750 as the master carpenter of the meeting house, in 1764 when it was actually being built, Thomas Peabody of Lunenburg is listed as the master carpenter with Gould assisting. So, one could say that two master carpenters worked on the first meeting house. Along with them were experienced workmen, Jonathan Hopkinson and Henry Coffeen, of Monadnock No. 1. In addition, almost every resident helped to work on the church and many furnished materials, being paid for their labor and materials. It had been decreed that any of the inhabitants could cut timber for the meeting house. The building had a plain exterior, without a steeple or cupola. The interior was frequently modified as the township grew. There was no fireplace nor chimney, making for chilly winter services. Enoch Hale, William Carlton, and Aaron Taylor were in charge of clearing the Common and laying out several roads leading to the center of town.
What was the cost? Amazingly, we have a detailed account of this. About 150 pounds were paid for boards and planks. Twenty-two thousand shingles were bought for 66 pounds. Twenty pounds were paid for clapboards. The slitwork (square sawn studs for walls and joists for floors) cost about 60 pounds. The large part of lumber was bought at the mill of Josiah Ingalls, and the rest was from the mill of Jonathan Hopkinson. Nails and spikes were furnished by the carpenters for 50 pounds. Enoch Hale directed the installation of the underpinning (foundation work) at a cost of eleven pounds. Items for labor amounted to 480 pounds. In addition, 200 pounds were raised to cover glass and other materials.
Who paid? In 1762, it was voted that the cost of building the meeting house would be paid by the “whole propriety”, which one would assume to mean everyone who owned land in the township. Additionally, every man who owned property was required to provide dinner for two builders. A barrel of rum was also provided for the workers. On that note, we end this episode.
(Sources consulted are Stearn’s History of Rindge, New Hampshire 1736-1874; and the Rindge Historical Society.)